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Renfrew may soon be home to the area's first roundabout

People living in Renfrew who have never driven through a roundabout may need to beef up their skills because the town has submitted a $4.9 million grant to complete the massive O'Brien Road reconstruction, and that final phase includes the area's only roundabout.
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If you live in Renfrew and have yet to navigate a roundabout while driving, you may want to start practicing because if a grant submitted by the town is successful, the installation of Renfrew and the lower Ottawa Valley's only roundabout is central to the proposed project.

Mike Asselin with the development and works department and main author of the grant application is hoping another successful connecting link application will be one of the final projects on the massive, and multi-year O'Brien Road Reconstruction project, with or without funding for a roundabout.

During its Nov. 22 meeting, council agreed to send an application for the Connecting Links funding to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) for a section of O'Brien Road between Mask and Wrangler roads. The one outstanding aspect of the application includes the installation of a roundabout at the O'Brien/Wrangler intersection. 

The application presented a budget of $4.9 million and if successful, the province would contribute $3 million towards the cost and the remainder would come from the Town of Renfrew. The Connecting Links program is designed for towns like Renfrew that has roadways connecting both sides of a highway.

Several applications have been submitted over the years since the town has 6.8 kilometres of roads that meet the criteria. That represents about two per cent of all roadways in Ontario and the province only releases $30 million annually for the program.

Incorporating a roundabout anywhere in the Ottawa Valley is something that has been talked about at both the local and county level for decades and only has actually been approved. One was incorporated in a 2021 submission of a construction project that is located near Garrison Petawawa. Roundabouts are not common locally, and when the application was made for Petawawa in the hopes of reducing the impact of more than 5,000 vehicles a day driving on and off the base, there were multiple safety concerns raised at a public presentation.

One common concern was included by some residents and they voice safety issues since many residents’ unfamiliar with roundabouts. Asselin conveyed some of the same attributes as the Petawawa project by citing the benefits of installing the traffic measure.

“If you think about it, there’s no stop-and-go’s, there’s no lineups and there’s no waiting at intersections waiting for the light to turn green,” he said. “Pedestrian access is free flow around the roundabout, so there’s a lot of very positive attributes.”

While the Petawawa traffic congestion is due primarily to thousands of civilians and soldiers driving to their place of employment every day, Renfrew's growing problem is the issue of an increase in the number of transport trucks going t and negatively impacting local traffic. He said modern roundabout designs account for the number of transport trucks passing through town.

“The centre of the roundabout will have a lot of it that’s passable for trailers,” he said. “The truck will follow around the lane and the trailer will go across the centre in a prepared pattern. Basically, they’re designed to accommodate truck traffic.”

A common concern raised by Renfrew council was what, if any effect, the construction will have on the flow of traffic as it will be situated near the traffic lights at the O’Brien/Mask intersection near Walmart and Canadian Tire.

“The right turns and the ins and outs to the Walmart property will be enhanced quite significantly through the design work to get traffic really flowing well into that development,” Asselin said. “As a result, the Mask intersection won’t have as much traffic as the O’Brien/Wrangler one.”

The application presented a budget of $4.9 million and if successful, the province would contribute $3 million towards the cost and the remainder would come from the Town of Renfrew. The Connecting Links program allows a maximum of $3 million for road projects and funds a maximum of $5 million for projects involving a bridge.

Since the program was introduced, the town has had a very successful streak of securing provincial funds, a program that covers up to 90 percent of every dollar allocated for an individual project. Beginning in 1999 when the town received $1.7 of a $2 million Raglan Street South project, and since then, the town has secured close to $25 million from the Connecting Links program.

Other notable projects include:

  • Highway 132 reconstruction project that was completed in 2015. The province provided $2 million of the final $2.3 million cost.
  • Highway 60 upgrade for O’Brien Road and Veterans Memorial Boulevard that was completed at a cost of $3 million and the province covered just over $2 million when it was completed in 2016.
  • Renfrew’s downtown core had a major face-lift in 2018 with a $10 million project, which included the complete overhaul of Raglan Street South and the replacement of water pipes below the surface, with some of the original pipes close to 100 years old. Wider sidewalks built to accommodate both pedestrians and electric scooters paved the way for three new state-of-the-art pedestrian crossings.The province covered seven of the $10 million dollar amount.
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